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Stress

Stress is common and all people experience it in one form or another:

However, chronic unmanaged stress can have profound effects on emotional, psychological, and physical wellness. 

The following symptoms have been associated with formal diagnoses of acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder and are not in the realm of normal everyday stress experiences:

  • Reexperiencing a traumatic event (recurrent thoughts, memories, dreams, or nightmares)
  • Avoidance (that remind you of something traumatic)
  • Reduced responsiveness (feeling detached from self, people, or activities)
  • Increased arousal, anxiety, and guilt (hyperalertness, easily startled)

If you believe that you are experiencing the type of stress that is associated with the normal everyday tension, there are many things that you can do without professional assistance to reduce your stress:

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Changing your daily routine and diet are two examples of things that can be done relatively easily; however, learning how to deal with the psychological aspect of stress can be challenging and may require some professional assistance.

The pharmacist in this video suggests that when you keep a journal that “after a few weeks you may recognize patterns [causing stress] and discover how to deal with them.”

Identifying the cause of stress and finding a solution to reduce its effects is key to living a healthy life, of course.  Some people who come to therapy are well aware of the precipitating events to their stress (i.e., they know what is causing it), but they are in need of assistance in finding adaptive ways of dealing with the events or causes.  Others are more aware of their strong emotional reactions, but they do not understand why they are experiencing them (e.g., experiencing frequent tearfulness or becoming angered but not knowing why).

Journaling is a good way to start looking inwardly for causes and solutions. Another way is to talk to someone who is trained to listen for and identify these as well. Psychologists are highly trained in helping people understand their emotional lives and work with them to resolve the underlying causes of them and increase their ability to reduce their own stress reactions so that they can live more peacefully in their own skins.

Research has shown that treatment for stress can make a major difference in a person’s life (Bradley et al., 2005).  In particular, the discussion of past and present upsets may indeed help improve a person’s health (Smyth & Pennebaker, 2001).

References:

Bradley, R., Greene, J., Russ, E., Dutra, L., & Westen, D. (2005). A multidemential metanalysis of psychotherapy for PTSD. American Jouranl of Psychiatry, 162(2), 214-227.

Smyth, J. M. & Pennebaker, J. W. (2001). What are the health effects of disclosure? In A. Baum, T.A. Revenson, & J. E. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of health psychology (pp.339-348). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.